April 20 – It’s the Month of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

During the month of April, we celebrate families and their young children. The aim of the holiday is to raise awareness of all the ways people can support and advance children’s happiness and wellbeing. Getting kids excited about learning and experiencing new things, getting to know their community, engaging in healthy habits like eating well and exercising are important components of a happy life. Today’s book incorporates many of these goals and will delight young readers. Earlier this month, families, schools, and caregivers celebrated the Week of the Young Child with different special activities encouraged each day of the week. These activities are fun all this month and anytime of the year. To learn more about how you can incorporate Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Artsy Thursday, and Family Friday into your schedule visit the website of the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Animals Move

Written by Jane Whittingham

 

It’s no secret that little ones love to jump, run, climb, and snuggle. Not only are these activities fun and great for getting the wiggles out, they help kids build strong muscles and develop large and fine motor skills. In her new book, Jane Whittingham entices children to get moving while also introducing them to fifteen baby animals and what they are called through her engaging rhythmical and rhyming text. Even the youngest children will pick up on Whittingham’s lively words and want to read along too.

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

Beautiful, action-packed nature photographs of each baby animal – from whale calves to swan cygnets , echidna puggles to alpaca crias, puppies and kittens to tadpoles and more – are paired with photos of a wide range of kids, including a girl with Down syndrome and a young ballerina who uses a walker, mirroring the animal’s motions and inviting readers to pounce, nibble, splash, and dash along with them.

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

Animals Move is part of the Toddler Tough series, which, in addition to the text for children, provides adults with a guide on how the book assists with physical, language, and subject-matter learning development. The spirited photographs of readers’ peers engage kids in recognizing a variety of facial expressions, emotions, and body language, which enhances social emotional learning – important skills for success in school and beyond. Back matter also provides ways in which to use the book as a springboard for your own creativity through games, singing, movement exercises, and even making your own book. Sturdy construction and a padded cover complete this well-thought-out book. 

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Copyright Jane Whittingham, 2022, courtesy of Pajama Press.

If you’re looking for a book that’s sure to be an active story time favorite at home, in the classroom, or for library programs as well as a terrific take-along for spontaneous fun on walks, at the park, on picnics, and during other outings, you’ll want to add Animals Move to your book collection.

Ages 2 – 5

Pajama Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1772782387

Discover more about Jane Whittingham and her books on her website.

Month of the Young Child Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animal-matching-cards

Match Up the Animals! Game

 

Test your powers of memory—or your ability to guess correctly—with this Animal Pairs matching game!

Supplies

  • Printable Match Up the Animals! Cards to color
  • Printable Full-Color Funny Matching Cards – Set 1 | Set 2
  • Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Animal Pairs Cards, print two pages to have double cards. To make the game more difficult print 3 or more pages to find 3 or more groups of matching animals
  2. Color the cards
  3. Cut out the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table in random order
  5. Turn over cards to look for matching pairs
  6. When you find a matching pair leave the cards face up
  7. Continue playing until you find all the matching animal pairs or groups

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animals-move-cover

You can find Animals Move at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 1 – Wishing a Hoppy Book Birthday to Every Bunny Dance Now!

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About the Holiday

I’m excited to be celebrating the book birthday of Joan Holub’s and Allison Black’s newest seasonal board book for enthusiastic little readers. With touch-and-feel surprises and lively rhymes and rhythms to get kids engaged with every page, this is one spring charmer you’ll want on your child’s library shelf. 

Thanks to Joan Holub for sharing a digital copy of Every Bunny Dance Now! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Every Bunny Dance Now!

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Allison Black

 

If your kids always have the joys of spring in their heart and a jaunty spring in their step, then they’ll love hoppin’ and boppin’ along with the bundle of bunnies, lambs, ducks, pigs, squirrels, and cows who can’t stop mooovin’ to the groove. Even a skunk and some butterflies join in the fun.

Ready to get started? Then “give your fuzzy tail a wiggle. Twitch your bunny nose and giggle. Skip through flowers in your jammies. Boogie-woogie with the lambies.” Think your kids can resist that invitation? Me neither! 

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Image copyright Allison Black, 2022, text copyright Joan Holub, 2022. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Joan Holub’s infectious rhymes will have little ones jumping and laughing, twirling and peeping – and even doing the chicken dance – as they visit a pond, a mud puddle, a patch of clover, and a colorful field of wildflowers. When all the wiggles are out, kids will find more to love with the touch-and-feel elements on each page that make this a terrific lap-time book as well. However you share this book, you and your kids will want to cheer, “What a great day, bright and sunny. Happy springtime, little bunny!” 

Joan Holub’s enchanting romp is the perfect way for kids to celebrate the season of spring as well as to enjoy the wiggly, giggly fun of movement all year around. Holub’s short sentences, punctuated with invitations to join in on the ducks’ “quack-quack,” the pigs’ “oink-oink,” and the cows’ “mooovin’,” will have kids excited to read along. Those who like a little learning during story time will like pointing out or naming and counting the different animals.

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Image copyright Allison Black, 2022, text copyright Joan Holub, 2022. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Allison Black infuses every page with loads of color and vivacious, smiling animals enthusiastic to spend time with their friends. As the bunnies come topside to start the party, Black sprinkles her vibrant backgrounds with music notes and surrounds the animals with charming flowers, clover, and butterflies. Kids will love spying the adorable bespectacled moles who pop up to attend the celebration too.

An exhilarating and charm-filled way to spend time with little ones and get them excited about reading, Every Bunny Dance Now! will become a quick favorite for active and snuggly story times. The board book makes a fantastic addition to Easter baskets or gift for springtime celebrations.

Ages 2 – 5

Cartwheel Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1338795004

Discover more about Joan Holub and her books on her website.

To learn more about Allison Black, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-every-bunny-dance-now-cover

You can find Every Bunny Dance Now! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 3 – It’s Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

National Family Literacy Month was designed to encourage parents and other adults to read together with the children in their life. Studies show that children who are read to are better prepared to read on their own and do better in school. Cuddling together before bedtime or during special story times with favorite books instills a love of reading that can last a lifetime. To celebrate, plan some special reading-related activities: take a trip to a local bookstore and let your child pick a book; if your child is old enough, visit the library to sign up for a library card; and schedule extra reading time, especially with grandparents or other family members who may be visiting for the holidays. A fun and educational board book like today’s book is a perfect way to get little ones enthusiastic about reading as they grow older!

Thank you to Abrams Appleseed and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sharing Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals

Written by Laura Gehl | Illustrated by Gareth Lucas

 

From their earliest years, kids are attracted to animals, whether for their fluffy coats, enthusiastic “kisses,” or silly antics. They love visiting the zoo and the aquarium to see – and maybe even touch – animals and sea creatures from around the world. And they’re always excited to meet new animals through the books they read. Through an age-appropriate short, charming poem played out over eight boldly illustrated pages, Laura Gehl does just that, introducing kids to a few of the earth’s most unusual animals. 

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Image copyright Gareth Lucas, 2021, text copyright Laura Gehl, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Gehl begins with an animal from Asia and Africa that at first glance might appear like an unlikely combination of an anteater and a fish – the pangolin! Turning the page, readers do meet a fish – and what a fish! “This sunfish weighs a ton.” Another ocean dweller is introduced two pages later: “This angler sees no sun.” Readers will be equally charmed by a turtle whose “neck is long,” and a clever camouflaged insect whose “jumps are strong.”

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Image copyright Gareth Lucas, 2021, text copyright Laura Gehl, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

In addition to these three quirky creatures, kids get to know a glass frog, a long-horned orb-weaver spider, and a bush baby. Then Gehl tickles kids’ funny bone with a surprising perspective about how beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Following her lyrical pages, Gehl presents readers with a factual paragraph about each critter that reveals more about the trait that makes them so unusual and where they live. These descriptions are accompanied by a full-color photograph of the animal so kids can get a close-up view of nature’s amazing adaptations.

For young nature-lovers in the making, Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals is an engaging way to introduce them to a few creatures from around the world that will whet their appetite for more discovery. The book would be a much-read addition to home, classroom, and school and public library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 4

Abrams Appleseed, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419742224

Discover more about Laura Gehl and her books on her website.

You can connect with Gareth Lucas on Instagram and Twitter

Family Literacy Day Activity

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Odd Beasts Coloring Pages

 

These odd beasts could use some color! Download and print these three coloring sheets from Laura Gehl’s website!

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You can find Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 20 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Love Can Come in Many Ways

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About the Holiday

Today I’m celebrating the book birthday of a tender board book that when shared between an adult and a child can help build strong loving bonds that can lead little ones to become happy and self-confident children. These are qualities that are also honored today during National Youth Confidence Day, which encourages us to connect with and inspire today’s youth to succeed tomorrow. National Youth Confidence Day celebrates the energy, spirit, and potential of young people. The day is an acknowledgment of all they will accomplish, and kids can accomplish anything when they know they’re loved.

Thanks go to Chronicle Books for sending me a copy of Love Can Come in Many Ways for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Chronicle in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Love Can Come in Many Ways

Written by Terry Pierce | Illustrated by Suzy Ultman

 

How do you share your love for your little one; young grandchild, niece, nephew, or cousin; student; or other child of your heart? With a kiss, a hug, a smile? Or maybe you have a secret signal that only the two of you know. In this adorable board book, animal families of all kinds reveal that “nose to nose or gaze to gaze. / Love can come in many ways.”

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Image copyright Suzy Ultman, 2020, text copyright Terry Pierce, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle.

Elephants snuggle their kids behind an ear or hug them with their trunk. Swans hold them close with their wings, and froggies feel love “through lively songs that Mama sings.”  Whether their held tight in paws or jaws, panda cubs know their loved. Some babies ride on Mama’s back or within her furry coat. While penguin chicks are warmed with love “atop a papa’s sturdy feet.”

Each animal—and person—has a special way to say that “you are loved.” But no matter if it’s a “helpful hand” or “a gentle squeeze. / Love is kindness, comfort, peace.”

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Image copyright Suzy Ultman, 2020, text copyright Terry Pierce, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle.

Terry Pierce’s lilting verses, as gentle as a lullaby, will warm a little one’s heart as they cuddle up with an adult to hear—and see—how various animals embrace their own babies. Pierce wraps readers in cozy, comforting words and a soothing rhythm that are perfect for naptime, bedtime, or when a little extra snuggle is needed. Little ones will be surprised, delighted, and full of giggles as they learn about the ingenuity of nature.

With stylish flair and softly rounded shapes, Suzy Ultman creates original and eye-catching pages that will charm little readers and adults. Whimsical touches, such as jaunty hats, round eyeglasses, and potted plants, go hand-in-paw with Ultman’s lovely color palette to make pages that are as adorable as they are enchanting. And no little fingers will be able to resist lifting the vibrant felt flaps to take a peek at the sweet baby animals snuggling with their mom or dad.

Endearing to the max, Love Can Come in Many Ways is a board book will be a treasured gift for baby showers and new babies, and is a must for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages Birth – 3

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452172606

Discover more about Terry Pierce and her books on her website.

To learn more about Suzy Ultman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Love Comes in Many Ways Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Chronicle Books in a giveaway for two lucky winners. Each winner will win

  • One (1) copy of Love Can Come in Many Ways, written by Terry Pierce | illustrated by Suzy Ultman

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite animal for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 20 to October 26 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 27. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Chronicle Books

Love Can Come in Many Ways Book Birthday Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hand-print-elephants-craft

Elephant Handprint Painting

 

This easy craft is fun for adults and kids to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room and reminder of a parent’s, grandparent’s, or caregiver’s love.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-love-can-come-in-many-ways-cover

You can find Love Can Come in Many Ways at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 19 – Celebrating the Fall Season

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About the Holiday

Fall is a time when the cooler weather and beautiful scenery entice people to get outside to enjoy farms, farmers markets, pumpkin picking and carving, scarecrow making, and lots of walks and biking. Inside, it’s time for pie and bread baking, cozy blankets, and snuggly story times. Today’s book is a perfect match for the season!

Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book

Written by Tara Knudson | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

The bright blue skies and warm sun of fall is here, and the little animals are at the fair having fun in this sweet touch-and-feel board book. Bear cub takes a pony ride while Raccoon and Bird visit the petting zoo. Kids can pet the baby goat, too, while he nibbles the oats Bird offers. At the craft table, Fox, Chicken, and Elephant are coloring, making banners, and decorating pumpkins.

Then it’s time for “harvest treats, lots to buy—donuts, bread, apple pie.” The sprinkled doughnuts feel sugary sweet! There’s nothing more fun than jumping in a pile of leaves, and the fair even has a play area where Duckling, Tiger, Lamb, and Bunny “shuffle through, stomp the ground, crackle, crunch, hear the sound.” Scratch the leaf and feel how crisp it is. The afternoon is waning and the sky is streaked as orange and red as the autumn leaves. The air’s turned chilly, but there’s still time for a hayride through the pumpkin patch! Look at that big, deep orange pumpkin. Feel how smooth it is! Now, it’s time to go, but it’s been a wonderful day at the fair!

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2020, text copyright Tara Knudson, 2020. Courtesy of Zonderkidz.

Tara Knudson’s playful rhymes will charm little ones as they join in on the fall fair excitement. Along the way, kids meet many different animals and engage with shapes and colors. Knudson’s lyrical verses perfectly reflect the fun and cozy atmosphere of fall. Sensory patches invite eager fingers to pet the horse and goat, touch grainy sugar, enjoy the woody texture of a fallen leaf, and feel the smoothness of a pumpkin shell.

Juliana Motzko’s fall fair enchants with adorable animals and the bright colors of the autumn season. Delighted smiles abound as the young fair-goers visit the petting zoo, craft table, baked goods display, play area, and pumpkin patch. Motzko’s textured illustrations of golden hay, rich soil, whole grain bread and apple pie as well as crunchy leaves and a straw-filled scarecrow blend well with the touch-and-feel patches and enhance the opportunity for adults and kids to talk about sensory awareness.

Fun Fall Day, a nicely sized board book—not too small or too big for little hands—is a story that’s a joy to read aloud and one that kids will want to hear again and again. It would make a much-appreciated gift for babies and toddlers and a favorite on home, preschool, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Baby – 4

Zonderkidz, 2020 | ISBN 978-0310770213

Discover more about Tara Knudson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website

Celebrating Fall Activity

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Autumn Leaf Mobile

You can bring the beauty of autumn leaves into your home with this fun-to-make mobile. Use tissue paper, construction paper, or even real leaves to make this mobile, that makes a great pattern and counting activity to do with young children too. 

Supplies

  • Paper Plate
  • Scissors
  • Tissue Paper/Crepe Paper
  • Tape
  • String/ Yarn

Directions

  1. Cut out the center circle of the paper plate and use the outside ring as the top of your mobile
  2. Have children pick out colors. We did a fall theme, but you can really let the kids be creative here. 
  3. Cut out tissue paper or crepe paper into leaf shapes. Adults will have to cut out the bulk of leaves. My six year old was able to cut the leaf shapes out, but was tired after 5. I used about 60-70 leaves.
  4. Have children organize leaves into patterns.
  5. Tape leaves together so they overlap. 
  6. Tape chain to paper plate ring
  7. Tie String or yarn to the top of the mobile

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fun-fall-day-cover

You can find Fun Fall Day: A Touch and Feel Board Book at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 27 – National Family Day

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About the Holiday

The purpose of today’s holiday is simple—to fully appreciate the family one has, whether it is small or large, whether members live close together or far apart. The founders of Family Day, which is celebrated on different dates around the world, wanted people to relax their busy schedules and spend time with those they love in a meaningful and fun way. This year we may be spending more time with family than usual, which has led to some thoughtful, creative, and fun ways to pass the time. To honor today’s holiday, let your family members know how much they mean to you. 

What is a Family?

Written by Annette Griffin | Illustrated by Nichola Cowdery

 

Early in life, little ones—loved by mom and dad, two moms, or two dads and perhaps siblings; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins; and other extended family members—discover that all of these people are their family. But they may wonder: what does that word really mean? As kids play with their pets, visit zoos and aquariums, and read about animals, they may also wonder if animals have families. What is a Family? answers these questions with bouncy rhymes that introduce children to an alphabetic variety of animals and the scientific names of their groups. But first, it answers that most important question and reveals that “Families are groups / that take care of their own. / They all stick together / to help make a home.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-is-a-family-groups

Image copyright Nichola Cowdery, 2020, text copyright Annette Griffin, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

At A,B, and C kids learn that “Ants have a colony. / Bats have a cloud. / Chickens have peeps / where they can get loud.” The names of many family groups seem perfectly fitting for the animals’ personalities or traits. Take these at M,N, and O, for instance: “Mice have their mischiefs, / and narwhals, a blessing. / Oysters have beds— / not for sleeping, I’m guessing.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-is-a-family-ants

Image copyright Nichola Cowdery, 2020, text copyright Annette Griffin, 2020. Courtesy of Familius.

Little ones will love and take pride in learning about unusual animals, like quail, umbrellabirds, and xerus as well as the clever names for their family groups in Annette Griffin’s charming verses that provide a smattering of behavioral facts about the animals along the way. Griffin ends her story with this snug reassurance: “…families are special, / though not all the same. / It’s the caring and sharing / that gives them the name” that can lead adults and children to discuss the variety of families, cultures, and traditions that make up our world.

Nichola Cowdery populates this nicely sized, soft-covered board book with adorable birds, fish, reptiles, and forest, jungle, and plains animals set in their realistic habitats. Her vibrant colors and whimsical details will captivate young readers. Little ones will also be drawn to the images of the ways in which babies and adult animals interact. There’s plenty here to set little learners giggling too, which enhances the reading experience.

Sure to be a family favorite for story time and bedtime, What is a Family? would be an endearing and educational book to add to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 1 – 5

Familius, 2020 | ISBN 978-1641702447

Discover more about Annette Griffin and her books on her website.

To learn more about Nichola Cowdery, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Family Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animal-matching-cards

Match Up the Animals! Game

 

Match up animal family members in this fun printable game that tests your powers of memory!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Animal Pairs Cards, print two pages to have double cards. To make the game more difficult print 3 or more pages to find 3 or more groups of matching animals
  2. Color the cards
  3. Cut out the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table in random order
  5. Turn over cards to look for matching pairs
  6. When you find a matching pair leave the cards face up
  7. Continue playing until you find all the matching animal pairs or groups

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what-is-a-family-cover

You can find What is a Family? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

July 30 – International Day of Friendship

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About the Holiday

Established in 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of Friendship asserts the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures, and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities. The UN resolution places particular emphasis on involving young people in community activities that include different cultures and promote respect for individual diversity. On this day UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urges everyone, especially young people who will be our future leaders, “to resolve to cherish and cultivate as many warm relationships as possible, enriching our own lives and enhancing the future.” The day is celebrated with special initiatives, events, and activities that promote dialogue, education, understanding, and cooperation. Children are especially receptive to learning about and reaching out to others to achieve common goals. Today’s book can get them started. For more information about the International Day of Friendship and a list of actions we can all take, visit the United Nations website

Our World: A First Book of Geography

Written by Sue Lowell Gallion | Illustrated by Lisk Feng

 

A board book like no other, Our World literally gives kids a well-rounded look at the geography of the countries, oceans, animals, plants, and climate that make up our home planet while engaging them with lyrical verses and information-packed paragraphs. Sue Lowell Gallion invites readers on her journey around the world as the sun, rising over a cool sea where scuba divers swim, brightens the sky with pastel colors: “Many places to explore, / From mountain peaks to ocean floor. / Look around you, step outside… / Find forests tall, / And grasslands wide.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-our-world-open

Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Over the three spreads that contain this verse, children learn how the weather influences the types of trees that inhabit wooded areas and what types of leaves they have. Next, Gallion contrasts forests with open grasslands and reveals that while trees may be scarce on the plains, a diversity of animals is not. While herbivores easily find plenty to satisfy their hunger in grassy environments, carnivores must hunt, and their prey have adapted to survive: “Many animals, like zebras, are fast runners because there are few places to hide.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-our-world-swimming

Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Traveling on to the world’s lush rainforests, Gallion provides little learners with enticing snippets of information about the profusion of plants and animals that live here. What might be the counterpoint to rainforests? If you’d say deserts, you’d be right! While some deserts are hot and others cold, Gallion writes, “all deserts have one thing in common: it almost never rains.” Still, an amazing variety of plants and animals thrive in these formidable conditions. Gallion shares how with her young readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-our-world-deserts

Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Antarctica and the icy tundra of the Arctic and high mountain peaks are populated with animals specially suited to life in our planet’s coldest regions. But, Gallion reveals, “the ice covering both the North and South poles is melting fast now. This makes temperatures and ocean levels rise around the world.” The book’s journey also spans “rivers, lakes, / Oceans deep. / Valleys, hills, / Mountains steep.” Over these pages, children learn how rivers form and where they flow; they discover what types of creatures live in shallow ocean waters as well as those pockets that are “deeper than the tallest mountains on Earth”; and they learn how the most majestic mountains and their valleys were created. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-our-world-antarctica

Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

One two-page spread opens to a world map, where the seven continents and major oceans, seas, and gulfs are clearly labeled. Children will love pointing out where they, friends, and family live as well as places they’d like to visit someday. Panning back and back and back again, readers see Earth floating in space as Gallion explains “what makes life on Earth possible for plants, animals, and humans, too.” Then it’s time to zoom in to view a single house under a star-lit sky; a house that will spark in readers an appreciation for the wonder of “our blue planet, / Warmed by sun: / A living home for everyone.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-our-world-from-space

Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sue Lowell Gallion’s enchanting poem and informational text, which is sure to inspire kids to learn more about all of Earth’s natural wonders, are set off in a unique design which allows the book to open into a 3D, freestanding globe that will wow kids and adults alike. Magnets embedded in the front and back cover hold the spherical shape while the fanned-out pages create a sturdy base. 

Giving this view of the world its vibrant and distinctive look are Lisk Feng’s spectacular illustrations of dawn-streaked hills, forests frosted white in winter and ablaze with color in autumn, and an array of creatures big and small that make each region exceptional. The image of the rainforest is especially rich, with its multi-hued vegetation that hides a snake, a jaguar, a toucan, a crocodile, and more creatures that kids will love searching for. Transitioning from the world map to a view of Earth from outer space to a single home at the end of the book reminds readers of their singularly important place in the world as individuals and as custodians of its resources.

A gorgeous and perfectly designed book to spark learning and research about the world’s natural features, Our World: A First Book of Geography is a must for children who love travel, nature, science, social studies, and learning about the environment. It would be a valuable asset for every classroom and homeschooler as well as a favorite pick for public library collections.

Ages 2 – 6

Phaidon Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1838660819

Discover more about Sue Lowell Gallion and her books on her website.

A Chat with Sue Lowell Gallion

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Sue Lowell Gallion writes for children because she is passionate about children, reading, and any combination of the two! She’s the author of the award-winning Pug Meets Pig and more.

Sue has three books releasing in 2020. Our World, A First Book of Geography, illustrated by Lisk Feng, is a uniquely formatted board book that opens up to form a free standing globe. Her latest picture book is All Except Axle, illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley, is the story of a new car anxious about leaving the assembly plant and learning to drive. Tip and Tucker Paw Painters is the third in her early reader series written with her author pal Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Andre Ceolin. 

Welcome, Sue! As soon as I saw Our World (and, of course, played with it a bit), I knew I had to talk with you about your and Lisk Feng’s eye-popping book. Our World: A First Book of Geography is stunning! Can you take readers on the journey from your original idea for this book to how it became this 3D, free-standing beauty?

I’m a huge fan of the innovative, creative board books on the market now that are such fun for kids and adults to share. Also, I grew up in a family printing company, so I’m intrigued with paper engineering and unique book forms. We did a lot of hand bindery work at home on unusual jobs like pop-up advertising pieces. I was a pro with a tape machine early on.

I went to an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) workshop on board books for authors and illustrators in late 2017. During a brainstorming time, I imagined a board book about the Earth in the shape of a globe with its stand. Afterward, I searched the market to see if something like this already existed. It didn’t! Over the next month, I wrote a rhyming text to match that concept.

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The iconic Earthrise image taken from Apollo 8 in 1968 was part of my initial vision. From space, there are no national borders. I hope this book might inspire people around the world to further value our world, and to act to save and protect our planet and its environment. The melting glaciers, catastrophic weather changes, and other effects of climate change show that immediate action is long overdue.  

When the Phaidon team became interested in the manuscript, we started revising. I can’t tell you how many versions there were over a year and a half! The manuscript went from 56 words to almost 1,000 with the addition of supplementary nonfiction text for older kids. Maya Gartner, the editor, and Meagan Bennett, the art director, are in Phaidon’s London office. The two of them, plus Lisk Feng, the illustrator, were a great team. Many other Phaidon staff were involved in making this idea into a reality, of course. The way the front and back covers connect magnetically to hold the book open is incredible. My 88-year-old printer dad is impressed!

From the cover – which, with its chugging steamer, wheeling seabirds, and diving whale, seems to be in motion – to its lush interior spreads, Lisk Feng’s illustrations are gorgeous representations of each area. What was your first impression of her artwork? How were the final images chosen? Do you have a favorite?

My Phaidon editor told me they had been wanting to do a project with Lisk Feng for some time. I could see why! My first impression of her work was from her website and the middle grade nonfiction book Everest, written by Sangma Francis and illustrated by Lisk (Flying Eye Books, 2018.) It is a fascinating and gorgeous book; do get your hands on a copy! I was thrilled with the opportunity to create a nonfiction book with Lisk.

We worked to make sure each continent and a variety of geographic locations are represented in the illustrations. Each spread representing a biome is based on specific locations that both Lisk and I researched. As the illustrations were in process, I continued to research and revise the text to match the art.

My favorite spread changes all the time. I love the jungle/rainforest spread. The colors and composition are amazing. And I’ve been drawn to the water feature spread, which illustrates rivers, lakes, and oceans, from the very beginning.

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Image copyright Lisk Feng, 2020, text copyright Sue Lowell Gallion, 2020. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

As far as the cover, one of the themes of the book is the connectedness of the world. Early versions of the manuscript included how transportation links the world, and that’s represented on the cover. It’s another conversation point with kids – where would you like to go, and how could you get there? Which oceans would you fly over or sail through?

The text is a combination of lyrical, rhyming verses and explanatory paragraphs that are just right for introducing the youngest readers as well as older kids to geography. How did you choose which details to include? How would you recommend readers, teachers, and homeschoolers use Our World?

I’d love to direct your readers to the two activity guides for the book. One is for babies through kindergarteners, and another guide has games to use with a globe beach ball. Some work with a real globe, too. Globe beach balls are inexpensive and easy to find online. The games can be as simple as playing catch and noticing whether your hand is holding land or water – and a child is learning how much of our earth is covered with ocean. The guides are free to download from my website, suegallion.com, under Resources. Most libraries have globes, so that’s one more reason to go to the library!

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The dual narrative makes the book appeal to a range of ages, I hope. The rhyming text is an introduction, and the supplementary text adds more. We tried to make the text interactive, to encourage conversation and further learning. For example, in the spread about water features (lakes, rivers, and oceans) we mention that places in the ocean are as deep as the tallest mountains on land. Perhaps that will inspire a family to talk about Dr. Kathy Sullivan, the first woman to walk in space, who recently dove in a submersible to Challenger Deep, the deepest known point on Earth, located in the Pacific Ocean.

It was important to me to include the fact that ocean water is too salty to drink. An easy experiment to do with kids is to have them mix their own saltwater and see what it tastes like. This can lead to a conversation about how in many places people don’t have enough safe, clean freshwater to drink, and what happens when people have to drink dirty or polluted water.

I hope as kids and adults turn the pages to reveal different places in our world, they can talk about contrasts and similarities. What would it be like to live in this place? What would you feel or hear if you were there? What else would you like to know?

Why do you think it’s important for children to learn geography from the earliest ages?

A child’s understanding of the world around them begins at birth, then grows as sight, dexterity, and mobility develop. I like the definition of geography as learning place and space. Spatial thinking and mapping skills are important to understanding concepts later on in math, the sciences, history, and more.

Experiencing other places, either in person or through books, can expand a young child’s world tremendously. Books can help kids feel a connection with places they haven’t been, and people they’ve never met. And in our nature-deficit culture, books also encourage kids and families to explore the outdoors and expand curiosity.

Which of the areas described in the book most closely resembles where you live? What do you like best about this area? Have you ever traveled to any of the other regions in the book? What surprised you most about it/them?

I live on the eastern edge of the Great Plains in the U.S., a grassland biome. In the book, grasslands are represented by the African savanna. We wanted the illustrations to feature animals whenever possible, because animals are so interesting to kids. The African savanna, with all its marvelous large mammals, was the natural choice.

I did want to give a shout out to my region in the book, so you’ll find the cold winters and blizzards that cross the Great Plains of North America included in the secondary text. What do I like best about this region? Well, Kansas City is my hometown. It is a beautiful part of the country, as you see in this image of the Konza tallgrass prairie in eastern Kansas.

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My family circled back here after living in several other regions of the U.S. I love to travel, and I can’t wait for it to be safe to start planning my next trips. I have four more continents to go: South America, Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. And I haven’t visited a polar biome yet. It’s on my list.

Thanks, Sue, for sharing the fascinating story of Our World! What an amazing resource for parents, teachers, and homeschoolers! And I hope you get to visit all the places on your list! 

You can connect with Sue on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter 

International Day of Friendship Activity

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Our World Activity Kits

 

You’ll find lots of activities that get kids – from infants to kindergarteners and beyond – interacting with geography through games, movement, songs, a scavenger hunt, and crafts on Sue Lowell Gallion’s website. Learning about our world has never been so much fun!

Our World Activity Kits

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You can find Our World: A First Book of Geography at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review